The biggest movie to open over the holiday break, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is turning out  to be the lowest grossing movie of this new series. Fans with high expectations eagerly anticipating the conclusion of the Skywalker saga are bound to be let down. Regardless, attending the film with some apprehension will leave viewers frustrated.

The evil Emperor Palpatine, presumed dead after the events of “Return of the Jedi,” has emerged once more and recruited Kylo Ren to kill the budding Jedi, Rey, in his bid to reconquer the galaxy. Meanwhile, Rey, Finn and Poe learn of a special positioning gadget called a Sith Wayfinder, and cracking it just might lead them to where Palpatine is hiding. Even so, it seems possible that seductions from the dark side could turn Rey into an ally of the Sith and the Resistance’s fight against the First Order isn’t going well.

After the extraordinarily divisive audience response to “The Last Jedi,” and the generally negative reception of “Solo: A Star Wars Story,”and “The Force Awakens,” director JJ Abrams has returned as the writer and went back to the director’s chair. As a result, the film more than ever feels like an act of backtracking. Most of the tonal and character choices of “The Last Jedi” have been reversed and the style has reverted to that of “Force Awakens,” with a mostly rehashed plot along with old characters being brought back purely for their name recognition to the fans.

The most apparent choice that falls flat is the decision to bring back Palpatine. Not only is it a shallow exercise in fanservice, but it nullifies the sacrifice made by Darth Vader at the end of “Return of the Jedi.” The same can be said for the return of Lando Calrissian, who other than one line of exposition, has no reason to be in the movie.

Not only this, but the script is awkwardly constructed with certain characters acting without proper motivation. Additionally, it’s paced way too quickly, with action set pieces stacked on top of each other without giving them room to breathe. It’s almost as if Abrams was trying to make his own correction of “The Last Jedi” at the same time as the finale, and the overall effect is two movies crammed into one.

This shouldn’t take away from the things the movie does right, though. The action scenes are excellent and constantly keep you on the edge of your seat, nearly to the point of exhaustion. As is par with the rest of the series, it’s a gorgeous film to look at. The special effects are magnificent all over, and the art design by the legendary Rick Carter never fails to make the world of the movie believable.

John Williams, perhaps the greatest living film composer, returns to bring his ninth score in the Star Wars series, and is still at the top of his game. The performances from everyone involved are stupendous, with Adam Driver in particular as the villainous Kylo Ren emerging as perhaps the actor with the brightest future.

It therefore makes the end product that much greater a disappointment for many. Big questions that were posed in the previous films are either unanswered or given cringeworthy explanations that make you wish they were left abandoned. Furthermore, it tarnishes the impact of the original trilogy due to some truly clumsy callbacks and instead of celebrating the end of this saga, we’ll likely all be left wistfully wondering what could have been.

Crushed under the weight of its own ambition, “Rise of Skywalker” ultimately proves what I suspected when this trilogy began: that there wasn’t a cohesive plan for how the series was going to end. It owes too much to its predecessors, and while it may be a satisfying conclusion on a surface level, it’s thematically an empty one.

Two and a half stars.

Good:

  • Attractive set design and visuals.
  • Solid performances.
  • Epic.

Bad:

  • Repeats many plot points and rehashes many characters.
  • Predictable.
  • Pacing issues.
Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver duke it out as the heroic Rey and the villainous Kylo Ren.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DISNEY
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